REVIEW: “Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl” are Faithful Remakes of the Originals (Switch)

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Pokemon BDSP - But Why Tho

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl continue the trend of remaking the older Pokémon generations every few years. The trend started with FireRed and LeafGreen, and arguably reached its peak with HeartGold and SoulSilver. Each remake has remained very faithful to the original games, and Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are no different.

Originally released in 2006, Pokémon Diamond and Pearl have long been considered one of the top generations of Pokémon games by fans. While the original games were developed by Game Freak, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl were developed by ILCA. This marks the first time in series history that a mainline Pokémon game was developed by anyone other than Game Freak. I was a little skeptical over whether a new developer could still capture the Pokémon magic, and I’m happy to say ILCA did not disappoint.

Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl take place in the Sinnoh region. The story follows the player as they earn all 8 badges and strive to defeat the Elite Four to become the Pokémon Champion. Along the way you’ll encounter Team Galactic as they work to capture Pokémon to use them to create a whole new universe. Each game is extremely similar across the generations when it comes to the story, which makes it easier for new players to hop in at any point. Both games are also identical in story, the only difference is a select handful of available Pokémon that can be obtained via trade with the other game.

Along with the story, the vast majority of the game is a meticulously crafted replica of the originals, which most fans should be happy to hear. Not everything is the same though, as the game had to be updated to meet modern Pokémon standards. There are some really nice quality of life improvements that have come into the series over the years that are present here, including team-wide experience sharing. There is also the addition of an autosave feature which is an absolute lifesaver. HM moves are also used via the Poketch now, which removes the need to, say, have a Bidoof in your party just to use HMs.

Not everything in the game is the exact same, though. The Great Underground of Sinnoh was always interesting in the original releases, but ILCA has added new locations that make targeted Pokémon searching much easier. There are several underground locations that feature wild Pokémon walking around like they do in Sword and Shield, which is my preferred way to encounter wild Pokémon. The ability to have your Pokémon follow you around also returns in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, but it is not available right away. I’m not really sure why every Pokémon game doesn’t feature this. I remember experiencing it for the first time in SoulSilver and it’s baffling that not every game has your adorable (or comically large) Pokémon following you around.

The biggest change in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl has nothing to do with anything in the game, however. The visual style was completely overhauled by ILCA and is dramatically different than the originals, opting for a chibi-style design. The style may be different, but it is undeniably unique and looks incredible. Each city feels vibrant and distinct, and the character animations are excellent. I particularly love the water designs, water can be hard to animate and design and ILCA knocked it out of the park here. The design also helps make the games more presentable for kids, who the franchise is made for in the first place.

Not everything is idyllic in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. The number one most frustrating thing for me is the return of breakable TMs. The franchise has moved away from breakable TMs in recent years, so it was odd to see that come back here. I understand the desire to be as faithful to the originals as possible, but since the HM system was changed it would have made more sense to leave the TM system changed too. I prefer when players have the options to use TMs without concern for if they are ever able to find the TM again, it opens up more options for team and move composition combinations. The other real issue I had was the lack of backward compatibility with other generations of Pokémon games. You can’t make trades from Pokémon Sword and Shield, and there is no Pokémon Home support until some point in 2022. Since the games use the same roster of Pokémon from the original versions, it would have been nice to access harder-to-find types like fire types via Pokémon Home or at least via migration from Sword and Shield like you could between Gen 3 and Gen 4 in the original Diamond and Pearl games.

Overall, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are incredibly faithful remakes of Diamond and Pearl, warts and all. There are some nice new additions that enhance the experience, and the visual style is unique and quite good-looking. It’s hard not to recommend these to any Pokémon fan or newcomer to the franchise. There might be a few negatives, but none of them take much away from the overall excellent experience.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are available now on Nintendo Switch.


Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Overall, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are incredibly faithful remakes of Diamond and Pearl, warts and all. There are some nice new additions that enhance the experience, and the visual style is unique and quite good-looking. It’s hard not to recommend these to any Pokémon fan or newcomer to the franchise. There might be a few negatives, but none of them take much away from the overall excellent experience.